I gave a sermon last Sunday at Journey Church. This was the third sermon that I’ve ever shared (I’m still not able to call it the p-word, preached). For those of you who weren’t able to attend, my church does an awesome job of recording the sermons; you can listen to it here:
http://www.jcboston.org/audio/3-18-12KellySteinhausRadicalObedience.mp3 (direct link to mp3)
You can even download it and listen to it on your ipod on repeat :-) Just kidding. I wouldn’t want to make you go through that. But for those of you who don’t have the time or ability to listen to it, I’ve pasted the cliff-notes version below:
Radical Obedience in Following Christ
If you were to start a world movement, who would you choose? Someone in the government who could influence legislation? Someone with a lot of resources to help finance your vision? Maybe you’d choose someone who is the head CEO and has a lot of good connections.
But when Jesus came, who did He choose to carry out his message? He didn’t choose people who were of high ranking, or status, or people who were wealthy. He chose regular, ordinary, everyday fisherman. Indeed, the fact that they were fishermen means that the rabbis had rejected them for work in the temple.
So there is only one qualification that Jesus seems to look for in people – it’s their willingness to respond to his call.
The reality is that Jesus doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. What about you – how are you responding to Jesus? If you were at work right now, whether it’s in the office, whether it’s in classes as a student, or even at home as a mom, what if Jesus were to come to you and invite you to leave your whole life behind to follow Him, would you? Why or Why not?
When the disciples encountered Jesus, they left everything to follow Him. Their radical steps of faith are something we can all learn from. What radical step is Jesus asking you to take today in following Him? What can Jesus do with your little life?
Let’s look at the story for today – Luke 5:1-11
Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.
I can sum this message up in one sentence – “Following Jesus Requires Radical Obedience Now” – and in this are three ideas which build upon one another – “Following Jesus” “Requiring Radical Obedience” and “Now – the immediacy.”
First, verses 1-3 emphasize that Christianity is about following Jesus. Simon, James, and John had known Jesus for a some time here, and Jesus does something so significant at the beginning of this story – he enters the boats of the men. Jesus invites us into a relationship with Him, saying, “Come, follow me,” not “Come, follow these rules” as is emphasized in other religions. Sometimes people think that Christianity is all about doing certain practices, such as reading your bible, praying or going to church. But Billy Sunday said that “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.”
I firmly believe that in order to follow Jesus, you have to first fall in love with Jesus. The fact is that when you encounter Jesus’ love powerfully, you desire nothing else. Our obedience comes out of a relationship with Him.
When I was in college, I was invited to go to church by some friends – during worship there was something there that was filling my heart in a way that nothing else had. I started to wonder if this whole Jesus thing was true? I felt like my life was great, why should I change anything? But the more and more I learned about Jesus, the more and more I learned that there is so much more to life than I had ever experienced. And there was one night in my dorm room when I realized that my head believed it was true, but my heart wasn’t there. I prayed that God would reveal Himself to me, that I would fully know that He is who He says He is. And the next morning I woke up and literally the whole world looked different – the sky was bluer than I’ve ever seen it, the grass was vibrant green. And I believed! I just knew that everything the bible said about Jesus was true – something in me changed, and the only way I know how to explain it is to say it was Jesus. I wanted to tell everyone about Him.
When you encounter Jesus, something changes. What about you? Have you encountered Jesus? Have you fallen in love with Jesus?
When you’re in love with someone, you’ll go to great lengths to be with them, you’ll drive for hours to be together, you don’t mind staying up late just to talk, you’re willing to spend a small fortune on them, and when you’re apart it’s miserable.
Is that how you feel about Jesus? On a scale from 1-10, how in love with Jesus are you?
If our obedience flows out of anything other than love, then it comes from a wrong place. I encourage you to examine your motives today – Do you go to church because you’re supposed to, or because there’s something about Jesus you just can’t get enough?
I’m so thirsty for things of God. Sometimes I’m at work and I just want to pray, so I go to the bathroom, close the door and literally ask Jesus to fill me up with His love, with His presence. I ask Him to break through the darkness, the sin that I see in the world. Sometimes I feel like I literally can’t go through a few hours of my day without encountering Jesus in this way.
I believe that you will only love Jesus as much as you know you are loved. God so loved the world that He sent His own son so that we wouldn’t die but we would have everlasting life (John 3:16). So today, if you’re saying “I want that, I know there is more to this world, I want something real” then you’re in a great place. Jesus said you’ll find me if you seek me with all your heart – there is one prayer that Jesus loves to answer, “Jesus, reveal yourself to me.” Pray that today, and see what happens – you might find yourself falling in love…
In the second section (verses 4-10), we see how following Jesus requires radical obedience.
Our obedience for Christ comes from a place of love. But you can’t obey unless you first learn to hear Jesus’ voice. The first disciples had Jesus to listen to directly, and today we have to learn how to hear the Holy Spirit in our hearts, which I believe is the most important skill of being a Christian.
I wanted to share my friend Lessie’s insights in hearing Jesus: “Well, it’s kind of like thinking a thought, only it’s not your voice in your head and the thought is VERY strong. At first, I used to think I was just imagining it, but the things He would tell me would start to come true. Things that I couldn’t have known or even understood. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if what I’m hearing is God or not. But God’s voice never puts me down. Even if He’s correcting me, it’s always to lift me up. He never attacks my character (you’re stupid, you’re ugly, you’re bad, etc…). He also doesn’t use the word “If” with me. His words are very sure. And when He speaks, it’s with love.”
How do you learn to hear His voice? The main way is just to spend time with God – reading your bible, praying, seeking God. The more time you spend with Him, the louder you will actually hear His voice – it’s like hearing a friend in a crowd in a room. If you hear your friend in a large crowd of people, you can pick their voice out. It’s the same way with Jesus – but we first need to learn what He sounds like, and that can only happen through spending time with Him.
One of the ways you might know that it’s God speaking is that it’s something counterintuitive; that doesn’t make sense at all. In verse 4, Jesus tells the Simon to put into the deep water for a catch. Simon answers, “Master, we’ve worked hard and caught nothing.” He thought, “What a waste of time? They were professionals!”
There will be many moments when you must make a decision whether to obey or not. Heidi Baker, a woman missionary in Africa that I deeply respect said that her secret is to say “yes” to whatever the Holy Spirit tells her.
We see here that Peter chose to obey to what Jesus told Him, even though it didn’t make sense – and he yielded the greatest catch ever.
You don’t obey because it makes sense, you obey because of who is giving the command. It’s almost like God is asking, “Who is in charge here? Me or you?”
Last spring I was in a similar position as Peter – Jesus was asking me to do something that sounded a bit crazy. I was working in a high school at the time, and I literally walked into the room the last week of school and felt the Holy Spirit say to me, “This is your last week here.” And then the last day of school, “This is your last day here.”
And I knew that Jesus was asking me to leave my teaching job in order to pursue working in Christian ministry on a full-time basis.
People tried to talk me out of it – people called me crazy for leaving my job in a time when thousands of people were looking desperately for jobs. I wondered how I would pay rent as our nation struggled through the worse economic crisis in decades. But through it all, I have to say, God has been more than faithful. When we take steps to follow Him, He sends all of heaven’s angels and the power of God to back you. When you’re following Jesus, and God is on your side, there’s nowhere safer to be. And He has continued to provide for me, not just enough, but more than enough. Risk provides reward in Christ – and He is more than enough for us.
In this story, these disciples were called to leave the biggest catch of their life. And you do have to count the cost – it’s not easy to leave your old life behind. You will be tempted to go back, and there will be times when you doubt. I think the hardest part about leaving my teaching job was making that first call to my supervisor to tell her I wasn’t going to be teaching the next year. Because that meant there was no going back. There was nothing else I could rely on, other than Jesus.
But this is when you see Jesus move. He moves out of a place of dependency. When you step out of your comfort zone in radical obedience to follow Him, that delights the heart of Our Father. What radical step of obedience might He ask you to take today?
In the third part of the story, verse 11, we see the immediacy of His call. In Mark’s account of this story, it says that “at once” they left and followed Him. There is a tendency in our society to put things off, to say, I’ll do that next week, or next month, next year. And our good intentions turn into ideas, then into things that get pushed aside amidst the busyness of life and never happen.
In Matthew 8:22 Jesus calls a young man, and the young man replies, “Let me first bury my father.” Jesus tells him to “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Now that sounds pretty harsh, but the reality is that when we are following Jesus, delayed obedience is disobedience. Today is the day, the time is now. When Jesus calls, we have to go now. Don’t wait any longer.
We can’t wait, because our obedience to Christ’s call doesn’t just affect our own lives, it affects the lives of everyone we interact with and everyone in our future. A few years ago, one man was praying in Rochester, New York, and saw a vision of a heart beating over the city of Boston, pumping life in every direction. Immediately, he visited Boston, felt called to start a church, and at once he picked up his family and moved here. It’s only because of his obedience that our church exists. There is no other reason that we would all be together in this room.
Let me tell you, the life that He has for you is so much better than any life you might dream for yourself. I’ve heard it said that God will fill up however much you give him – if it’s a glass of water, then he will fill that, or if you give him an ocean then he will fill that. How much of your life will you give to God?
Right now, will you ask God to reveal what step He wants you to take today? Sit and wait and see what Jesus puts on your heart. It probably won’t be literal words, although it may be, but you might have a sense of something you’re supposed to do. Invite Him into aspects of your life – to convict you of ways you are not following Him – He will send you around and around the same mountain unless you decide to make a change.
Whatever the step is, you need to do it right away. Jesus, the one who created you and made you, is calling. His plan for your life is so much greater than you could ever imagine.
Yes, Jesus doesn’t just call the wealthy, or the well-connected; would you believe that Jesus is choosing you to carry on His mission? The first disciples abandoned family and friends, left their careers, left certainty for uncertainty, and the world was forever changed because of their obedience. What might happen when you follow Him like that?
DL Moody said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with one man wholly dedicated to Him. I want to be that man.” Do you want to be that man? Will you be that woman?
What can Jesus do with your little life? You won’t know unless you ask Him and then take steps to follow His call…
Jesus, I give you my life. Help me to fall in love with you deeper every day, that my heart would burn with your passion. Speak to me today as to how I can follow you deeper. Give me courage to step in your path, in whatever direction you lead me. Thank you that your plan for my life is better than anything I can ever imagine. In Jesus’ name, amen.